We all know our bodies change as we grow older, but knowing how to adjust to those changes isn’t always straightforward. Proper nutrition is one of those concerns that can take you by surprise, and it’s a key to both physical and mental wellness. Here’s what you need to know to ensure you’re getting all the nutrients you need and how to do so without overspending.

Gains and Losses

Seniors can have trouble with eating habits on both ends of the spectrum. It’s not unusual for people to experience a slow, steady decline in metabolism that goes hand-in-hand with aging. As a result, if someone continues to eat the same diet and quantities as before, they tend to gain weight. In light of their physical changes, some experts recommend that older adults aim for a diet focused on high levels of protein and reduced caloric intake.

On the flip side, the National Council for Aging Care explains that many seniors experience other age-related changes that can affect their nutrition and eating habits. Perhaps senses aren’t as sharp as they used to be, so food doesn’t smell or taste as good. Sometimes, medications can lead to decreased appetite or nausea, or poor dental health could set you back. However, you need a healthy, balanced diet throughout your golden years in order to enjoy optimal wellness. Without it, seniors are more apt to experience issues like depression, hypertension, and diabetes, to name only a few.

Help for Your Health

Seniors often have access to a terrific resource and don’t even realize it. If you could use assistance with your nutrition, many Medicare Advantage programs, such as UnitedHealthcare Medicare Advantage, include fitness, nutritional, and wellness programs. If that’s a benefit you would enjoy, be sure to explore your options. If your plan doesn’t include something along those lines, you can always make changes during the Open Enrollment Period, which begins on October 15 and continues until December 7 each year.

Look at Labels

There are certain nutritional components seniors should include in their diets. For instance, calcium, fiber, iron, and vitamin C are important building blocks for energy and immune function. To help you stay on track, Healthline recommends learning how to decode nutrition labels, as some of the information can be tricky to follow. For instance, sometimes a can of soup is condensed and will provide four servings, while other times, cans provide only two. Knowing how much you’re getting also helps to ensure you get the best bang for your buck.

Recipes for Success

It’s important for older adults to eat lean protein sources, whole grains, low-fat dairy products, and ample fruits and vegetables, and this often means embracing some changes. When seniors discover they need to adjust their eating habits, it can be hard to leave old favorites behind. However, there are plenty of fun recipes to try that incorporate nutritious foods. For instance, you can make soups that are virtually a balanced meal or casseroles that are easy to reheat.

When you purchase your groceries, buy what you can in bulk to stretch your budget. And to help yourself even further, make large batches to ease your workload. You can always portion out meal-sized amounts and freeze them for later.

Tantalizing Tidbits

If you find food doesn’t taste as good as it used to, try spicing things up a bit — literally! Brush up on how herbs and spices are traditionally used, and play around with different flavors to see what you like. The icing on the cake, Wellness Mama points out herbs and spices can provide important health benefits, such as cinnamon to reduce inflammation, basil to fight viruses, and turmeric for cancer-fighting properties. Spices can be a tad expensive, but you can find sites that will help you save money. So, explore what you like, and then flavor to taste!

By: Jennifer McGregor
Email: jennifer@publichealthlibrary.org

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